Review: Ann (Broadway in Chicago)

| November 18, 2011
Holland Taylor as Ann Richards in "Ann: An Affectionate Look at Ann Richards," playing through December 4th at Chicago's Bank of America Theatre.       

Written by Holland Taylor  
Directed by Benjamin Endsley Klein
Bank of America Theatre, 18 W. Monroe (map)
thru Dec 4  |  tickets: $20-$85   |  more info

Check for half-price tickets 
        Read entire review


Dynamic ‘Ann’ suffers from excess length


Holland Taylor in her play about Ann Richards

Broadway in Chicago presents
Ann: An Affectionate Portrait of Ann Richards

Review by Lauren Whalen 

How did a divorced, recovering-alcoholic, female Democrat become the governor of Texas? As Ann Richards herself explained, it was a long journey – but one more women should attempt. In Ann, veteran stage, film and television actress Holland Taylor, who also wrote the one-woman show, fully embodies the legendary politician and her tough talking, liberal feminist legacy. Taylor could have used an editor to save the production from half an hour of excess length, but her impassioned portrayal of a dynamic woman almost makes up for it.

As a somewhat successful framing device, Ann Richards delivers a college graduation speech years after her single term as governor had ended. Resplendent in a white suit and quick with a dirty joke, Richards narrates her journey to the governor’s office, from a hardscrabble rural childhood to marriage to a civil rights attorney, to her almost accidental run for county commissioner. Along the way, she was exposed to racial and cultural diversity while attending a southern California public school, conquered alcoholism in her adult life and formed a friendship with Bill Clinton that involved squabbling over crossword puzzles. The show segues to Richards’ office during her gubernatorial days, offering a glimpse into the nonstop barrage of negotiations, decisions and phone calls to her beloved granddaughter.

Taylor is a captivating actress, her distinctive baritone wrapping around the Southern syllables with relish. Ann is clearly her passion project, and she’s completely invested in painting a portrait of a woman who wore more hats in one hour than most do their entire lives. One of the most fun scenes involves Ann delivering an articulate forty-second sound bite about the state of welfare in one breath, then ordering boots for her overworked staff in the next. Taylor interprets Ann as the life of the party, whether “the party” is a first-grade classroom or the Democratic National Convention, always at the ready with a tart tongue and a sharp wit to match, who knows exactly what should happen next and is always right. Michael Fagin’s design of the governor’s office is realistic in its intricacies, with eye-catching details like a blue armadillo paperweight. Though Taylor never changes costumes, Julie Weiss deserves kudos for Ann’s elegant snow-white suit.

However, two and a half hours – while an impressive feat for a performer who only leaves the stage at intermission – is excessive for a solo show. Additionally, the context is odd: the abrupt transition from presentational commencement speech to “day in the life” character study was seamless from a technical perspective but confusing story-wise. And having Ann constantly yell at unknown staff members, only heard on the phone intercom, gives little insight into her interpersonal relationships. Taylor does an admirable job interacting with thin air, but why does the audience have to see so much of it?

There can never be enough shows about successful, professional women who stoop to conquer. In Ann: An Affectionate Portrait of Ann Richards, Holland Taylor portrays a legendary steel magnolia with gusto and is a joy to watch. If only she’d stopped at two hours and left us wanting more.

Rating: ★★★

Ann continues through December 4th at Bank of America Theatre, 18 W. Monroe (map), with performances Tuesdays at 7:30pm, Wednesdays at 2pm and 7:30pm, Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30pm, Saturdays at 2pm and 8pm, and Sundays at 2pm and 7:30pm.  Tickets start at $20, and are available by phone (800-775-2000) or online at (check for half-price tickets at More information at time: 2 hours 20 minutes, which includes one 10-minute intermission)




Holland Taylor (Ann Richards)

behind the scenes

Benjamin Endsley Klein (director), Holland Taylor (concept), Michael Fagin (sets), Julie Weiss (costumes), Matthew Richards (lighting), Ken Huncovsky (sound), Zachary Borovay (projections), Paul Huntley (wigs), Peter Fulbright (production manager), J.P. Elins (stage manager), Kevin Bailey (executive producer)


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Category: 2011 Reviews, Bank of America (Shubert), Broadway in Chicago, Lauren Whalen, National Tours

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